Saturday, 8 September 2007

English Premier League & Astro pay TV

Its Super Sunday, and everyone is clamoring for best seats in front of their TVs. Yet many fans of the Premier League are disappointed for they do not have access to Astro.

Astro, compared to other pay TV networks in Indonesia, is the newest entrant. We don't even know if its entity is legal here, with the web of regulations and laws concerning foreign ownership of broadcasters. Yet they managed to secure exclusive rights to broadcast the Premier League games. Bravo Astro!

Football is becoming more and more elitist and is no more a commoner's game. Golf and tennis used to be called elitist as facilities for them are normally found in the best country clubs. However, due to the huge fan base, and possibly also the wagering community, football has become one of the most profitable sports in this part of the world.

Remember the World Cup of 2006? Complaints abound of how FIFA, through its quest for higher monetary rewards, have neglected the general public's love for the sport and their right to watch a world event which occurs only once in four years. Exclusive rights were granted to certain networks for handsome sums of sponsorship money hence, inevitably, depriving others.

But this is the world of economics. Without money, there will not be interesting football. Without money, clubs won't be able to buy good players who will captivate and keep fans, and thereby keep their cash registers going 'ka-ching, ka-ching...."

The EPL seems to understand this

Just signing broadcasting rights alone wil and is doing the right thing by negotiating collectively for income to broadcasting rights and splitting them equitably (or a bit more equitably) between all the clubs within the league. This will make the league more credible and watchable as more clubs become more balanced in terms of star players and goal scorers. One will remember the Formula One days of Michael Schumacher who dominated almost every race to the point where fans don't tune in anymore. It's boring. But with a revamp in the rules, Formula One became attractive again as the winners become less predictable. Perhaps the next time F1 has to do is to make the circuits more friendly to overtaking, for who wants to watch cars going at 300 kph around a track one behind another with no chance of a fight once you're in the back row of the grid after the first corner. And everyone waiting for a burst tire for someone else to take his position or for the safety car to come out at an opportune (or inappropriate moment for some) so as to gain track position strategically.

Coming back to the EPL. I still feel that the FA should open up the games to more people through granting of non-exclusive rights. Although this could result in less revenues on a per network basis, the FA and the networks could perhaps come up with a revenue sharing scheme whereby more than one network in one country will get to broadcast their games and the FA gets a share of their advertising revenues subject to certain minimum guaranteed sums, perhaps through a bidding system for each game.

Say, if networks pay certain sum for the right to broadcast EPL games upfront. Then they carry out a private bidding exercise for each game in the season so that networks won't be broadcasting the same games. And networks can base their biddings on the profile and spending power of their advertisers.

This is a more equitable system for all fans of EPL. Although the FA cannot guarantee its members of the league of certainty of income, the windfall which could result from the bidding exercises could more than compensate for that.

So here we go, fans of the EPL. Lets hope they will get their acts together to give us all back our rights to enjoy a commoner's game.

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